On Wednesday evening Chelsea faced Tottenham in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge. This promised to be a difficult matchup for both sides with Chelsea in somewhat of a crisis after their league cup final defeat on Sunday which saw their keeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, refusing to come off the pitch while making a fool of his manager. As a result of these antics, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri dropped Kepa to the bench for Wednesday’s game and instead started the Argentinian goalkeeper Willy Caballero. The game was set to be even harder for both teams, as the Spurs were ravaged by the injuries of key players like Delle Alli and Eric Dier, an unfortunate losing streak against the Spurs of previous Tottenham and now Chelsea manager, Mauricio Pochettino.
In the early stages of the match, Chelsea dominated the pitch. The first real chance of the game took place when striker, Gonzalo Higuaín, shot and hit the post after smooth, short passes in the build-up and a wild cross allowed him to have an attempt on goal from the edge of the box. After the attempt, Chelsea, in all things considered, should have been awarded a penalty after César Azpilicueta’s cross was blocked by Spurs’ left-back Ben Davies’ arm in the area, however, referee Andre Marriner saw nothing wrong with it.
Chelsea continued to pile on the pressure which provided Higuaín with a great chance after the team forced Tottenham to give up the ball at the back of the pitch. But when a stray pass from keeper Hugo Lloris was intercepted by Eden Hazard who teed it up for Higuaín on the edge of the area, the shot went wide. With an opportunity like that, a player of Higuaín’s experience is expected to perform up to standard, as it was a great let off for Tottenham.
Tensions between the players almost boiled over midway through the first half as Chelsea defender, David Luiz, lost his temper at Spurs’ Striker, Harry Kane, when he was closed down after receiving Tottenham’s ball when play had stopped for an injury to Spurs’ right back, Kieran Trippier. This caused a small fracas between Kane, Luiz and Chelsea Captain Azpilicueta, however, nothing major came of it and play continued.
As half-time approached the game began to sway in Tottenham’s favour and chances started to appear for the North London club. Harry Winks hit the bar from a fantastic long-distance effort after receiving a pass from Kane. He had beaten the keeper and if it had found its way to the back of the net, it certainly would have been a candidate for goal of the season. Yet the Spurs never gave up and continued to test Chelsea’s defence by putting crosses into the box but were unable to find the back of the net.
At the half time whistle, it was 0-0 after a decent first-half performance by both teams and an entertaining match for the fans, with each player knowing they could go on and win the match with a solid second half performance.
It was Chelsea who struck first when in the 57th minute their right winger, Pedro, scored a lovely goal. It came after Azpilicueta played him through and he cut inside onto his left foot in the penalty area and fired a shot at Lloris from a narrow angle. The shot’s power caused it to ricochet off the keeper and into the back of the net. This was a deserved goal for Chelsea after they had created good chances before this point.
The opening goal by Chelsea forced Tottenham to pile on the pressure. The South Korean winger, Son Heung-min, played through Eriksen into Chelsea’s penalty area and it looked as if things may open up for him, but a fantastic last-ditch challenge from the goal scorer Pedro stopped the attack. Harry Kane then had a chance on the volley from just outside Chelsea’s six yard box after a cross from Davies, but he was unable to hit the target and put it wide. It was a disappointing effort and many would have expected him to make more of such a chance.
The game stayed tight going into the closing stages until a horrific own goal from Kieran Trippier in the 84th minute doubled Chelsea’s lead and sealed the deal. A calamitous miscommunication on whether or not Lloris was going to come and collect the ball resulted in Trippier sliding the ball past his own keeper into the bottom-right hand corner of the goal. The disbelief was evident on the Spurs players’ faces as they realised the school-boy error had cost them a crucial game by killing off any hopes of a comeback. As a result, the game fizzled out and Chelsea won 2-0.
This defeat has likely ended Tottenham’s slim hopes of winning the title this season. Pochettino himself said in a post-match interview that it will be “impossible to fight against Liverpool and Manchester City,” and instead the Spurs must focus on finishing in third place. This defeat leaves Spurs in third place on 60 points, with Liverpool and City sitting above them with 69 and 68 points after 28 games played. Meanwhile, this result puts Chelsea in sixth place on 53 points, two and three points behind Manchester United and Arsenal respectively, but they still have a game in hand. This was a much-needed victory for Chelsea, allowing them to move on from the weekend’s drama and focus on getting into the top four, while for Tottenham this defeat may be a wakeup call causing them to look over their shoulder in the race for a top four finish.